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Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Progressive Dairy Editor Audrey Schmitz Published on 18 October 2019

“I’m going to tell you a little story about how I got where I am today. I’m also going to tell you the secret to a long, satisfying career,” Phil Meadows said during his recent presentation at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

At age 19, Meadows took over his mom’s dairy farm after his dad was killed in a farm accident when he was 13. He managed the farm and was really eager – but not so good at what he was doing. After a few years, he gained experience and got good at dairying. A few years later, he decided to take a career path change and go back to high school as a 26-year-old. How scary is that? Eventually, they let him into vet school, and he graduated in 2001.



Back to square one, he was eager and enthusiastic as he started practicing vet medicine. With time, he got better at what he was doing. In 2007, Dairy Farmers of Ontario discontinued a milk technician service that provided milk quality analysis. Meadows felt it was something he could do himself because he had used it when he was a dairy farmer and had referred many clients to them when in veterinary practice. However, there were a few things that kept him from jumping in with both feet. He was content with what he was doing, thought he was busy enough and wasn’t really interested in trying something he wasn’t trained in.

“I was hesitant to jump in, all the while knowing I was probably the right person for the job,” Meadows said.

The year 2012 rolled along, and Meadows attended a dairy health update meeting at the University of Guelph, where the topic was milk quality. It was then he decided to give it a try. Meadows got some equipment and did multiple milk technician trainings to add milk quality services to his practice. For a third time, Meadows found himself back to square one.

“Here’s the secret. You’ve got four boxes. You start in box one, and you are really keen, but you are not so good at what you are doing,” Meadows said. “With some experience, you move over into box two. In this box, you get good at what you are doing, but you are still really keen. Over time, you are going to slide to box three. Some of you may be there today. You get a little bored, a little tired of the mundane, and you are not so keen with what you are doing, but you are still really good at it. What happens next – hopefully you don’t get here – you get to where your attitude affects what you are doing every day, that it actually affects what you are doing and how you are doing it. You aren’t as good at what you are doing as what you once were.”

Four boxes


The secret to a long, satisfying career is recognizing when you get to box three or four and then doing something to go back to box one or go back to box two, Meadows said. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Meadows has repeated this process over and over again in his life. He has become comfortable being uncomfortable. Think about that for a minute. Comfortable being uncomfortable.

If you feel like you are in a rut, or definitely box four, try something new. Learning gives us access to novel and different opportunities, and the chance to try experiences that might be the best ones we’ve ever tried. It helps us break out of our normal mundane routine to inspire us, motivate and energize us. By learning a new and appropriate skill that links to the work you do, you’ll rejuvenate your working life and get so much more from it.

In Meadows’ words, “Enjoy the great experience of being back in box one and two, folks. It can be really exhilarating.” end mark

Audrey Schmitz
  • Audrey Schmitz

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